The award, which is presented every year during the Cologne International Art Fair by the National Association of German Art Galleries (Bundesverband Deutscher Galerien) and the Koelnmesse Group, is remunerated with 10,000 EURO. Spies received the prize in honor of "his outstanding services to modern art".
The Tübingen-born scholar lives near Paris, and has belonged to the German chapter of AICA for decades. He was a professor at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art until 2002. It is primarily his art books which have made him popular.
Koelnmesse quotes Spies as stating, on the occasion of the conferring of the prize, that the "art trade plays a highly significant role in promoting the arts”. For the French and Anglo-Saxons, this kind of encouragement for artists by galleries is something which is taken for granted. But according to Spies, the Germans, with the remnants of their idealism, always have "a certain angst when it comes to the material side of things". He himself does not share this reservation, Spies is further quoted as saying.
In the interview, the award-winner is also questioned about the "globalization of art". Spies does not see this as a "loss of cultural values." “Artworks and artists are alone capable of generating difference. The artist creates a clear identity which can be linked to his signature. In an age of uniformity, when everything is homogenized and standardized, it is the artist who stands as an allegory for the last possible escape route from anonymity".
The unabridged interview with Werner Spies can be found on the website of ART COLOGNE.